I’ll be honest. How to prepare for a sales call is something that is so fundamental that I forget to write about it. For one thing, it’s not all that “sexy;” it’s much more fun to give great presentation tips, or some killer questions, or even talk about management strategy.
But then I talk to salespeople, the conversation slips around to how to prepare for a sales call, and I realize that many salespeople still don’t use all the resources available to them. So, in that spirit, here are four ways that you should research every prospect with whom you will be meeting:
- Company web page. Yeah, it’s simple, and I have to think that nearly everyone does it – but not everyone looks for the right things. We tend to get overwhelmed by the ‘pretty’ of the site and fail to read what we should be reading. Here are the biggest touchpoints on their site:
The ‘about us’ page: This is where they will show potential customers why those customers should be buying from your target company. In essence, this is their best foot forward. Know it and refer to it.
Their ‘news’ section: All too often, this will be obsolete – if it happened in 2017 and it’s still top of their blog, they don’t have much ‘news.’ That said, if there is genuine news, scan it to see if there’s anything that impacts you or gives you a feel for their company culture.
Executive bios: Is your contact listed here? If not, why not – are you starting your selling efforts too low in the company? If so, what can you learn about your contact?
Ease of contact: This will give you a great idea of how “open” they are to the world. This might seem surprising to you, but some companies close themselves off to the outside world. They have a great web presence, but getting ahold of them can be very difficult, to say the least. Openness to contact can mean openness to new ideas.
- Reviews. You should ALWAYS look at their reviews. If they are on Yelp (for instance, food and hospitality), look at those reviews. If not, Google and Glassdoor can also be great sources of insight into what their customers and employees say – and you’d be surprised at how often a sales need can be uncovered in looking at reviews. Don’t be afraid to ask about those reviews in the sales call, even having them up and on your phone to refer to if necessary. It’s possible that your customer might not have even seen the review.
- LinkedIn. You should always look up your contact on LinkedIn. Looking at their career history is good – looking at their activity is better. What things do they like or share on LinkedIn? What causes are they passionate about? What GENUINE (never fake this) commonalities can you find with yourself or your company?
- General Web Search. Finally, search (Google, DuckDuckGo, Bing, etc.) the company name and your contact name and see what comes up. A couple of years ago, I had a client who sold large-ticket items that usually involved some level of company-offered credit terms. A quick Google search ended that idea – the first ten results after the company web page were lawsuit filings from the previous year – all for non-payment of debts. Usually your results won’t be this dramatic, but you can get some good general insight on the company by searching them.
How to prepare for a sales call isn’t that tough; you just need to plan for it. Are there more things you can do to research? Sure – but sometimes it’s better to simply ask questions in the call. Hitting these four touchpoints above won’t take you that long (probably fifteen minutes or so), but will make you far better prepared to ask good questions to discover deep needs which then gains you a competitive advantage. Don’t skip this step.